One casualty of our political paralysis is momentum to enact supply chain and manufacturing initiatives that appeared to have bipartisan support coming out of the election. Today we can't seem to agree on the need to agree.
I thought as much reading Robert O'Brien's insights last week in Bloomberg, "Supply Chains Are Our Most Critical Infrastructure," that said so much even as it didn't.
O'Brien served as national security advisor to Donald Trump and obviously understands the strategic importance of a stronger U.S. manufacturing economy. In one short paragraph he supports and derides President Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure program before concluding, "Republicans may respectfully disagree on the plan, [but] a shared lesson from the pandemic is that essential U.S. supply chains constitute critical infrastructure. That is a point we can all agree on."
Can we? I'm not convinced we all agree, but O'Brien's right about the supply chain. He offers other useful nuggets:
O'Brien writes as a political actor so he falls short, in the end, of acknowledging that both sides agree action is necessary to strengthen U.S. manufacturing, even as neither side will take all the steps necessary to compromise and cooperate for the greater good. That admission is apparently a bridge too far in today's landscape.
If we reach a consensus on basic themes, we can get to the business at hand, that of shortening the supply chains of which O'Brien speaks. A slimmed-down infrastructure spending program that energizes supply-chain development should enjoy bipartisan support. The formula is straightforward: help companies accelerate factory innovations that keep production more local, reduce costs to enable OEMs to compete utilizing domestic labor, and use scalpel-like tariffs to establish a more fair domestic market for U.S.-made products. Plus, celebrate U.S. craftsmanship, increasingly fueled by technology: CNC and artisan will co-mingle in the same sentence, a lot, in the future.
The means to accomplish the ends are available to lawmakers.
There are so many good stories to be told, if we can take small but significant steps. Crossing the political divide to undergird U.S. manufacturing tops the list.
Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.